The dance world is a unique place with it’s own traditions and culture. For those of you who are just starting your journey, here’s an insiders introduction to both dance and Harbour Dance Studios.
The Dance Season
Our dance season runs from September to mid June. The school closes for many (but not all) statutory holidays, two weeks at Christmas, and two weeks at spring break. Classes are held on School District 68 (SD68) PD days.
Dress and Deportment
As you may have guessed from the movies, there are specific dress codes for the different types of dance. The dress codes are traditional, but are also for instructional and safety purposes. The proper attire and hair allow the instructor to see exactly what the dancer is doing so they can provide appropriate feedback and to ensure that the dancer is not doing something that will lead to injury. Dance is a very active pursuit and we want to ensure your complete safety both in the short term and long run. You can find the complete dress code on our web site, or you can ask Stacey to email you a copy of the document.
For centuries students have referred to their dance instructors by their pronoun and their first name. So Stacey Butterworth is referred to as Ms. Stacey. We maintain this tradition at Harbour Dance Studios as an important part of dance culture and as a demonstration of respect for the instructor.
We have two ‘Watch’ weeks throughout the dance season where you are welcome to come into the studio during class and see what your children are doing. Please check the studio calendar on the web site for the dates. We don’t allow parents into class outside of these weeks. The children get really excited when you visit their class and as you’ll see, not a lot gets done in class when there’s an audience. By keeping the rest of the class time un-interrupted, we’re able to get quite a lot taught. If you have a special relative who is in-town outside of these dates and who really wants to see what’s going on let us know and we’ll set something up if we can.
Like every sport, dance has a competitive outlet as well. Our dancers are very well respected throughout the region both individually and in their class groups. Our main competition this season is Peak Invitational in Nanaimo held in May at the Port Theatre. Competition season starts in January and runs through until May. Our students can compete in competitions in Seattle, Surrey, North Vancouver and Nanaimo.
Dancers may compete individually, in duos, trios or in class groups. As with all competitive sports, if you choose to go this route it requires an extra level of dedication to your own skills and to the needs of the team. Dancers who choose to enter competitive classes are expected to be at the majority of their classes and at all rehearsals close to competition time. It’s a lot of work but a lot of fun! We support and encourage our competitive dancers but we also like to maintain a focus on fun and a balanced life.
Performances and Special Events
We are asked to perform at community events on a regular basis and try to accommodate as many requests as we can without getting everyone stretched too thin. Regular events include community groups, festivals, multicultural celebrations, and the Vancouver Island Exhibition. They are great chance for our dancers to get extra time in front of an audience and build some confidence.
The Year End Show
The year-end show is the culmination of the whole year’s work. It is a chance for the dancers to be part of a fully professional production and for the parents to see what their children have been learning on the big stage at the Port Theatre with a professional stage crew. Our year-end show is run the same way that professional dance productions are run in Vancouver, Toronto, or New York. It’s a great chance for the dancers to get a feel for the way a big show runs and to be part of something special.
The year the show is on a Saturday June (dates posted on the Year End Show page) and there will be both a 2pm and a 7pm show. With the large number of classes and dancers in the studio, there will be very few repeated numbers between the two shows. The last week of classes before the show are given over to rehearsals and you will be asked to come in at different times and stay for longer. We will have a full dress rehearsal at the Port Theatre on the Friday and the dancers may have to miss some time from school on this day to attend rehearsal. Not to worry, the public school system is very aware of and is supportive of these events! Attendance is mandatory for all rehearsals so please let us know in April if you will not be able to be here for the rehearsals and the show. It is a lot of work but as you’ll see on the night of the show it is absolutely worth it!
Exams and High School Credits in Dance
Students are encouraged (but not required) to work toward and take examinations in ballet, jazz, and tap. Examinations help to solidify the work in the dancers mind and provide a real sense of accomplishment. Like regular school, some grades can be completed in one year but others require a year and a half to two years to complete. The upper level ballet exams in particular are very involved.
If students follow through with their exams in tap, jazz, and ballet they can earn multiple credits at the Grade 11 level and Grade 12 level. These courses will appear on your BC high school transcript and count toward your graduation from high school. Please talk to Stacey for more information on this program.
The flooring in the dance studios (at Harbour Dance Studios and elsewhere) is very specialized and in many cases delicate. There are three main kinds of floors, unfinished hardwood, finished hardwood, and marley floors.
Our upstairs studios are the original sprung floors from the 1930’s with unfinished hardwood overtop. On top of this we have placed a type of dance flooring called a ‘Marley’ floor. Marley is the dance world short hand for marine linoleum. It is a special grade of linoleum that provides a consistent and known friction across the entire floor. This allows the dancers to jump, spin, and turn with confidence, knowing what to expect for grip when they land. It is the gold standard for flooring in the dance world. It is also susceptible to damage from regular street shoes so we ask that you do not walk on the marley unless you are in sock feet or dance shoes (don’t worry, you can keep your shoes on for watch week!)
Studio B (our largest studio) has a special padded marley floor with a closed cell foam backing that provides further shock absorption in addition to the sprung floor underneath. It’s great for ballet and jazz, but not as good for tap as it muffles the sound of the taps. Our other three studios have a tough grade of marley that can take the punishment from a wide variety of dance forms. Despite it’s strength, we still ask that you not wear street shoes on these floors.
Extra Studio Time
If an dancer wants to get some extra practice time they are welcome to sign up for unused studio space when the studio is open. Please make all arrangements through Stacey.
Senior Student Lounge / Homework Room
To help out senior students (11+) maintain their grades we have provided a large change room upstairs for them to use that has couches, a desk, comfortable chairs, and wireless Internet access. They can use the senior lounge before, between, and after classes or can come in on any night when the studio is open if they need a place to get away and study either individually or with other friends from the studio. We apologize, but non-students are not allowed in the senior lounge.
We have a limited but growing number of lockers available for our dancers to use. Priority goes to the dancers taking the most classes as they have the most gear to lug back and forth.
Parents and students are very welcome to hang out in the lobby while waiting. We have a desk and wireless internet access for those who need to catch up on their work. All of the pictures you see on the walls of the studio are our own dancers and are changed every year. Also, all of the dancers you see in our advertisements, on the building, and on our signage are our own students as well.
Pick-Up, Drop-Off, and Parking
If a student has to come early or will be picked up late we have a homework area and comfortable seating in the lobby where they can wait. Please come into the studio to pick up your dancer or feel free to sit in the lobby and wait for them to finish class. Please do not have your child wait at the front doors and then stop on Bastion St. to pick them up. It is a busy and narrow street and accidents can happen if you block traffic.
Parking for all clients of the studio is located diagonally across from the studio in the parkade. There is very inexpensive metered parking available on the top level and longer term parking available on all other levels. Please do not park behind the studio or in the other small lots on Skinner St. They are for parking pass holders for several local businesses and the tow trucks patrol them like hawks. We are not responsible for cars that get towed from behind the studio.
Safety and Security
The safety of our staff and dancers is one of our primary concerns. Our lobby is open all day on Saturdays and until 5:00pm on weeknights. After 5pm the lobby door at the top of the stairs is closed and you will need the combination to get in. To open the lock, follow the instructions on the window next to the door. Please ask Stacey or another parent in the studio for the combination. If you have problems, there is a doorbell and intercom next to the door that you can use to signal to people in the lobby, or you can go old school and just knock. In case there is no one in the lobby we leave a chair on the landing so that you can relax and wait for your child’s class to come out. Feel free to share the code with anyone who will be picking up or dropping off your child but please do not give it to anyone not associated with the dance studio.
In the event of an incident or emergency we have plans for handling the situation or evacuating of the studio. Please take the time to look at the evacuation signs in the different parts of the studio and familiarize yourself with the closest exits to the locations you’re in. In the event of an emergency the instructors will take charge of the scene and will let you know what to do. Please follow their instructions and assist as requested.
While the studio is a very safe place, we usually have one incident of theft at the start of every year. Please do not leave valuables unattended in the dressing rooms or lobby. Take them with you into your classes. Your instructor will let you know where you can put your things. We are not responsible for lost or stolen items.
Office hours are posted on the sign in the front hallway and on the office door. They change throughout the year so if you really need to speak with Stacey please do not hesitate to call her or send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Stacey does her best to be in the office but she also teaches full time in the studio and as such cannot always be contacted immediately. She will return emails as promptly as possible. We sometimes have other staff working in the office. They can take care of the majority of issues and generally know where to find Stacey if they don’t have all of the answers you need.
Things can get busy so we try to keep the lines of communication open so that you always know what is going on. All of our correspondence is done by email and through our website. You will also receive regular emails keeping you informed of schedule changes, dates, and other important items. We promise not to email you unless it is important so please take the time to read the emails that we send and the information we post in the lobby. We are not responsible if you miss information that was sent to you.
We have a small line of Harbour Dance Studios gear that includes T-Shirts, Jackets, bags, mugs, etc… We do orders twice per year and will send home a notice well in advance should you want to pick up any dance gear for say, Christmas or something…
If you are joining Harbour Dance Studios from another school we will do our best to get you in a class that is appropriate to your skill level. Please understand that it is more appropriate to match skill than age so you may not be matched with other dancers your age initially.
If you have to leave the Nanaimo area and wish to take up dance in your new town please have your new studio phone us and we will help them to get you into an appropriate class where you can continue your studies. If you are unsure what studio to join please ask us for a recommendation and we will find a comparable studio in your new town that we are comfortable recommending. Dance is a small world!
Stop laughing, it does happen! We do not follow SD68 with respect to school closures. The streets are usually cleared by the afternoon but if the temperature begins to drop or it keeps snowing the roads can become unsafe. Please do not attempt to come to class if you are uncomfortable with the road conditions. We’ll do our best to make up classes for you. If there has been a snowfall, check on the studio web site and answering machine. We will make the call to close at noon the day of the snowfall and will post the closures on the website and answering machine. If possible we will make up the time lost on snow days but generally speaking the dancers get enough extra time throughout the year that that it all works out.
Well, any questions? Thanks for taking the time to read through all of this and please do not hesitate to talk with Stacey if you have any questions. Let us know how things are going and please share any concerns you have. We will do our best to address them promptly.